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KM Leadership Team Design: Building Your Tribes

What’s the likelihood that KM solutions “stick” without a KM leadership team? Pretty slim. When you take the time to develop leaders who understand the value of knowledge management and are empowered to be creative and try new ways to solve tough organizational challenges, you create a culture of knowledge sharing, team collaboration, and personal and professional growth.

The make-up of this KM leadership team looks different in every organization because every organization is different. A KM leadership team that is designed to create positive change within their team, department, or organization’s culture has some common elements. 

Here are the top three ways to shape the KM leadership where you work by thinking about it in terms of tribes:

1. Build your tribes

Seth Godin defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Tribes need leaders and members who share a vision that they’re willing to create together.

In KM, that might be:

  • A workplace that’s fun, engaging, innovative, and bustling with smart people sharing their expertise and ideas with one another
  • Easy access to all tribal knowledge so that every tribe member can focus on the service they provide to the community, rather than wasting time looking for informational resources
  • Leveraging technology that enables the tribe to communicate more effectively about the topics and issues that matter within their community

In essence, individuals make up tribes, tribes make up a community, and a community defines its own culture.

2. Make sure tribe leaders and members know their roles

When you start developing your KM leadership team, you should focus on selecting committed tribe leaders who will serve your tribe members. Look for individuals of varying seniority and tenure who are willing to join the tribe and help support the other tribe leaders. These leaders should attract their tribe members rather than coerce them to join the tribe so it’s important for these leaders to be able to articulate and bring energy to their tribes shared vision.

Once you’ve identified your tribe leaders, provide them with the learning opportunities that they need in order to develop into servant leaders. Then, it’s important that the tribes and community overall recognize who they are and what their role entails. Communication is key because a tribe that doesn’t recognize or understand who is leading the way will go in every which direction.

Here’s what this tribe model might look like within an organization that understands how knowledge management can enable employees to  flourish and thrive:

Tribe Leader (Head Servant Leader): This individual has formal power and influence within the organization. They are the ultimate champion for KM and they’re willing to invest in it and endorse the efforts to build KM into their operations and strategy.

Tribe Supporters (Servant Leaders): These are the individuals who lead departments, teams, and practices within an organization. They may lead one facet of KM, such as content strategy, taxonomy design, or collaboration tool implementation.

Tribe Members: These are the “users” in user-centric design. They are the focus of the KM solutions that the Tribal Leaders are designing because they are the ones who are most impacted by the change.

Tribe Council: This is the group within the tribe that is responsible for the rules that the tribe follows. The council weighs in on the changes to the KM solutions once they’ve been implemented.

Tribe Specialists:  Lastly, these are the individuals within the tribe who are the true experts within a certain KM realm. This would be like the equivalent of a shaman who provides medicine and healing for the tribe members. In KM, this might be someone who is an expert in user experience, change management agile, methodologies, or semantic web tools.

3. Gauge the healthiness and maturity of your tribes

It’s not enough to simply choose and train leaders before you send them off on their own. You also have to set up ways to measure and evaluate their effectiveness in reaching their tribe’s objectives.

Be on the lookout for these signs of a healthy, thriving tribe and community:

  • People are happy to be there and feel a part of something larger than themselves
  • People are productive and work hard to build and innovate
  • People are knowledgeable and share their knowledge with others

Individual growth is tied to the growth of the tribe, which results in the growth of the entire community. Individuals who belong to tribes and have a community-centric mindset will work together to create the culture that they envision. That’s how change happens. Need help building your KM tribes? Contact us at Enterprise Knowledge.

Mary Little Mary Little An accomplished project manager, business analyst, and management consultant. She ardently believes in the value of strong leadership, effective communication, and maximized talent potential as means to organizational change and success. More from Mary Little »